Saturday, May 29, 2010

UFC: 114 Turn to Stone

Dana White, Commissioner, walked to the stage holding and oil soaked egret by its scrawny neck. "Black on black crime!" He declared, strangling the egret, its eyes bugging and, finally, relaxing.

Forbes vs. Jensen

No interest. Jensen by decision.

Riley vs. Brammer

Riley is entertaining but can be his own worst enemy. Riley by decision.

Guillard vs. Lowe

Guillard can be submitted like an application. But that doesn't happen here. Guillard by 2nd round KO.

Cane vs. Diabate

Most people are saying Cane, but he has disappointed before. Does that mean that Diabate hasn't? No, but I am taking him anyway. I like his striking. Diabate by 3rd round TKO.

Escudero vs. Lauzon

If you haven't been following the gossip, Dan Lauzon's brother and the rest of his camp gave him the boot last week because they don't think he takes fighting seriously. That is a rough break. I wouldn't have picked him anyway. Escudero wrestles him to smithereens and hurts him for a 2nd round TKO.

Abdullah vs. Kim

I am a big fan of both guys. Abdullah really emerged from nowhere to be a real, old-school striker. He also displayed a surprising nack to survive, and win, on the ground. I just can't see how Kim is a good match-up for him though. Kim is a strong, tough guy who will get take downs and will hold his position and not get arm-barred. I would be just as happy to see either guy win, but I have to go with Kim for a TKO in the 3rd.

Sanchez vs. Hathaway

Yes! That isn't my enthusiasm, just the excess remnants of Diego's. Yes! Sanchez moves back up a weight class and will win a decision because he will out scramble, out position and out pace Hathaway who is a decent fighter. Sanchez by decision.

Duffee vs. Russow

Apparently the UFC wants to hype Duffee. His win streak continues. Duffee by 1st round

Nogueira vs. Brilz

The strange thing is, Brilz record ain't that bad. However, Nog really seems to be in the zone lately. I think he takes this win with only a small struggle, but remember, he is the fighter that launched Sokudjo by becoming his KO victim. Brilz is perfectly capable of hurting him. But I think Nogueira gets the KO in the 3rd after a good fight.

Bisping vs. Miller

I say it every time, I just don't believe in Bisping. It isn't that I don't find him likable or that I haven't been impressed by his ability to regain guard or his stamina. There is a lot to like about Bisping. But whatever it is that makes me never bet against a Diaz makes me never bet for Bisping. I just don't think he has it all together. Strangely I have a Diaz corollary rule; I also never bet against a Miller. True, they do lose, but that isn't the crux of the rule. Neither Jim nor Dan are guys that I count out of any match. Did Dan get out wrestled by Chael Sonnen and out struck by Damian Meia? Yes. Will that change my mind? No. I also usually go against fighters that can't put in a good camp. Miller's unfortunate situation with an ill child has to be trying for him. It must be difficult. I count all of this against him but then must make the pick for him do to the rare crushing sub power he has that Bisping will never taste as hard as he might work. Miller by sub in the 2nd.

Jackson vs. Evans

And we come down to it. Culturally I align with Jackson. We come from similar places and he talks like the kids from my school talk. Also, on a time line of my involvement with the sort I align with Jackson as he was ruling Japan when I got here. However, I agree to a certain degree with Rashad Evans critique of Rampage; he does play knowingly, to some degree, a stereotyped character of a Southern black man. I would make sure to include in that statement that Jackson is clearly very intelligent as the fool he makes out of this act often isn't him even when it sounds that way on first listen. I still remember his answer to the reporters question when he was fighting in Pride, "Where do you think you will be in 5 years?" "Well, I am 23 right now, so I reckon that will put me at about 28 in 5 years." But then he also had incidents where he molested reporters who didn't know they were allowed to say, "Stop!" He is also clearly nuts as the story of his religious conversion and his runaway monster truck episode make clear. There was a time when I loved Rampage completely but these parts of him have soured on me and I only like him in bits now. One bit I didn't like was the lazy and petulant coach that also riled Rashad Evans. I usually back a fighter that I feel trains better and it is no question here that that is Rashad Evans. Who has more actual skill? It would probably be Jackson, even though Evans is a bit quicker in hand speed. The only issue, and it has always been the issue, is that Rampage Jackson is one of the streakiest fighters out there. He has excellent boxing defense. He has excellent submission defense and defensive wrestling. He has a great chin and natural power. I have said here before that Evans, while a wrestler, wrestles poorly in MMA and wears himself down trying to push people around the cage. Jackson has notoriously absent leg-kick defense. All things being even, I would take Jackson to win and not trust Evans chin. I don't trust Evan's chin still, but the only we evidence we have that Jackson trained well was the UFC program that also convinced people that Dan Hardy could fight GSP. I can't stake anything on Jackson's consistency as there is none. If he comes out and fights to his potential, then he wins going away. I can't guarantee it so I go with someone who I know put in the time. Evans by split decision.

There it is, plug up an oil spill with it.

The Shin Guardian

I don't know if anyone has noticed but The Shin Guardian has been 100% the best footy site in the lead up to the World Cup. This kind of article is exactly what is missing from...everywhere. There has been a dearth of writing like this since Paul Zimmerman had his stroke. Of course it stands out that there is no copy editor, but what can you do? I also enjoy this article because formation is something that is hard to evaluate on TV but really comes through live. It is also something, I feel, that the USMNT does very well. They usually are diligent at keeping their shape and then going forward out of it. Great piece.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I am very late with this. Piling on after the whistle and whatnot. Rachel Maddow summed it up pretty well. That is, of course, one of the perks of being a media personality; you get first dibs at summing things up.

I have been an anti-proponent of Libertarianism (look, I won't even spell it right.) Since I attended a presidential debate in college. It wasn't really a presidential debate, I don't think the candidates bother with Alabama, it was a debate by proxy with the candidates representatives on campus standing in for their ideas. The Republicans were a hilarious farce with their man speaking in this crazy, over the top, Southern accent, being every bit Truman Capote and all that that infers. The Libertarians spoke loudly but made no sense, and this is largely the impression I have had of them since then. I remember when being questioned about their environmental policies, they contended that everything could be taken care of after the fact by lawsuits, like if someone threw garbage on your lawn. It was proposed to them that maybe a regulation saying that you can't throw garbage on other people's lawns might stop people in advance. No, they protested, it wouldn't. I have found their ideology to have about this depth since and have largely written them off as a party for teenage boys.

Nothing Rand Paul has said has convinced me otherwise. Libertarianism has become the portable umbrella for those who are too ignorant to read the radar map; they know they can just pop it out whenever they are in trouble. No thought ever seems to run too deep. I won't dwell on what Paul said as it has already been well covered. Here is the question I would have asked him. "Who enforces the rules when a disallowed group tries to do business where they are prohibited?" For example, in Rand Paul's world, private businesses can bar black people from patronizing them. If unwanted parties patronize that business, let's picture a restaurant, and the owner objects but they refuse to leave, do the owners call the police? Then, if the police respond, is it their obligation to kick the people out of the restaurant? Then it is the government endorsing the discrimination. Do Libertarians just not think that far down the road, or do they actually not care. Would it be acceptable to have our police enforcing private discrimination.

Another brief note. Japan has no laws guaranteeing human rights. It is completely legal to say that a group of people aren't allowed to live in a building or eat in a restaurant based on whatever. I have to get approval and have a sponsor to rent an apartment as a foreigner. When I call to inquire about a place to rent I am asked "Where are you from? That might be a problem." I have been refused credit cards and phones on the grounds that I am not Japanese. There are hotels that refuse to deal with non-Japanese. Does Rand Paul find this acceptable? I don't. I think it is just an easy argument for people who are more comfortable with racism and discrimination than they would be with stamping it out.

Cech it Out

Get it? Haha. Do I care that the US lost 4-2? No. I would have preferred that they win as it would mean that individuals were playing better, but that is all this game really was, a final test of specific individuals to see whether they would make the flight to South Africa or not. I still haven't gotten to watch the game so it is hard for me to say. I will conject that Onyewu's missed header that allowed a goal was probably more an issue with in-game timing as opposed to ability. I am 99% sure that the USMNT training staff measure things like vertical jump when they hold camps at that they have Gooch's records from before and after his injury. If there was a large discrepancy, it would have been noted. The same for his running speed. So when Grant Wahl, who I like very much, remarks that his running looks different, or that his jump might not have recovered, I would consider it only in terms of what the actual numbers say about his physical well being.

All of that being said, the final roster is out.

I am a bit surprised that Ching didn't make it. I have never big a big supporter of his but I recently rewatched some Gold Cup games, and he does do the little things extremely well. He just isn't fast. I do believe in the need for fast players, especially the way the US plays. I would have liked to seen Bedoya in, but it wasn't like he had a right to the spot. Buddle and Gomez are great stories and I think they can both score on the big stage. I am very excited.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We Are Here

I would like to fully endorse this collaboration between Brahman and Ego-Wrappin which is the best new Japanese music, all be it from old sources, that I have heard in a while. I was in a record store in Yokohama yesterday and had to stop and ask, "What is this?" Rad. It reminds me of Pee. The band, not the liquid.



A photo I took in college hung on my wall in Miyazaki the entire time I lived there, no matter the apartment. It became faded and curled and we when I left my window open during a typhoon. It was of a long stone path through a green thicket of bamboo with bamboo railing increasing the effect of distance, focusing it towards a mossy gate. I could remember going there in college. I could remember taking the picture. I remembered the bus stop I waited at changing to the train and I could remember the stone wall outside. I just couldn't remember where I had taken the picture. There was a time when I could but it went away. Then, the other day, it popped into my head.


Daitokuji is a complex of temples in Kita-ku near the more famous Ginkakuji. It was the haunt of the tea master Sen-no-Rikyu who funded its rebuilding. It is also where he comitted seppuku after being commanded to by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. A statue of Rikyu had been erected on the main gate of the temple and Hideyoshi was not happy about having to walk under it.



Daitokuji is a large complex filled with small subtemples. The one that haunted my memory was the Kotoin. The construction of the Kotoin is a prime example of what happens when Japan goes right. It is not that large a temple but it uses all of its space to great effect. The second gate, pictured below open onto a bamboo grove and takes a hard right turn, engulfing one in green.


This hard turn helps construct one of the best views in Kyoto. The picture which lived on my wall.
The distance is misleading. It isn't that long a walk, but everything works to stretch it out in the mind. Perfectly executed. Even the hand rail is exquisite.

The Kotoin was the territory of Rikyu's understudy Sansai who was also a powerful samurai. While in Kitaku, I would have to say that this room is a prime example of Higashiyama Bunka. Correct me if I'm wrong.


Does this hallway qualify as engawa? I think so. I am partial to it.


This is the garden. The stone lamp is said to be a present from Sen-no-Rikyu.


The colors on this tree seemed striking, not only for being out of season.


This is Sansai, and his Catholic wife Gracia.

Izumo-no-Okuni, the founder of Kabuki who danced on the shoals of the Kamo river because they weren't taxed, is buried here. Her statue is the one by Shijo Ohashi, if you were wondering.
These tea ceremony basins are designed intentionally low so that the participants will have to supplicate themselves. I believe this is the stone that was supposed to have been taken from Korea.






Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Permeable Cone!

This is a pretty F'ing rad idea and just simple enough that it won't be tried. Of course it might not work and this could be attempted right now. But, of course, it is one of those ideas that might work but well, um, we really can't do it. Why? I don't know.

The First Cut is the Deepest

The preliminary USMNT roster came out today and Charlie Davies wasn't on it. Neither were Frankie Hejduk or Brian McBride. That takes care of all of the special choices for the lovers the dreamers and me. Coach Bradley has much more hanging on this World Cup than business casual fans like me and he gets paid to make the choices most of us don't want to make.

I was going to write a bit today on what I thought the criteria for Davies inclusion in the team should be. My standard would have been if he could run hard for 15 minutes I would take him. That is if his running hard was at his old speed. I thought if that was the case he would always be good at the end of a desperate game. He can definitely go get the ball. I will assume that the coaching staff is looking at pretty much the same stuff and, to be fair, Davies own club team won't clear him to play. Also, his risk of reinjury is very high at this stage. It happens all to frequently. People work hard to get back and their bodies aren't used to straining after the time off and try to cover for the injured part and you end up with pulled hamstrings and ruptured tendons. I was really pulling for Davies and I think he represents the U.S.'s best hope at staging upsets, but I am also a realist. It might have been nice to bring him along as kind of a talisman. However, I am confident he will have a great future with the USMNT.

I also wanted Hejduk to be included as an option out of the defense. I love the fury he plays with and if the speed was still there, I would have taken him. Maybe it isn't. Now, I am pulling for Hercules Gomez. Leading the Mexican league in goals is no small feat. Edson Buddle is a great story. If Eddie Johnson could ever get it together he posses prodigious talent. I wish I knew more about Bedoya. I would be very happy to see Beasely return to form. He is a lot for slower teams to handle when he is on. He is a persistent nuisance on offense and defense and he can make the difference in big games.

I am very stoked for the World Cup and I look forward to spending June sleeping late or waking up early.

Update: Here is The Guardian's treatment of the England team. I wish the U.S. would put out something like this.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bubble Watch

There are a lot of pieces out now on who will make the cut for the USMNT. I have read all of them that I can get my hands on. This is my favorite so far, because it seems aims at true soccer geeks Although I did read another that suggested that McBride be a selection at forward just in case. I assume that would be the same argument I used to make for Teddy Sheringham, but you can see England isn't going to include him. I would have to agree with the Hejduk pick. Has the guy seemed to slow down at all?

Ohara: Hosenin

Ending up at Hosenin was purely an accident. I was wasting time on my way back from Jakkoin as Natsuki and Kayo wandered the grounds of Sanzenji. I climbed back up the hill and walked past the stone steps of the aforementioned temple. Down the stone path I came to the gate of Hosenin. I didn't plan to go in, and the entrance price at 800 yen was a bit steep. Its garden looked rather appealing and in the end I bought the ticket and took the ride.


I don't have to tell you at this point that the garden itself is worth it. It is not large but it is extremely nice. I have astoundingly little information on Hosenin. I have read their literature and consulted their website, but I have nothing much to tell you about them. Looking at the garden, I would say that it is Zen. Zen, the Buddhism for warriors. It is odd to contemplate that many Americans immediately think of Zen when thinking of Buddhism, yet it was the religion for the license to kill murderous henchman of warlords. Who wrote poetry and had sex with boys of course. But I digress. Behold their gardens!



I wandered into the building and felt like I was trespassing in someone's house. It looked much more like a home than a museum.


This is the main view of the garden and its 700 year old pine tree. In America we travel for the weekend to Civil War battlegrounds and marvel at the ancient history. Around Kyoto, 700 years will get you a side mention in a free pamphlet. Entering this room, the steep asking price became reasonable as I realized that included in the 800 yen was a truncated tea ceremony. Macha it is.




From outside of the garden, this gnarled pine appears as a leafy version of Mt. Fuji, an interesting illusion. It seems more dignified in its knotty, naked presentation.
I started feeling more and more foreign even though I was probably one of the few Kyoto residents in attendance. Maybe it was going by myself and that is just the feeling you get anywhere traveling by yourself. Which is what makes it great most of the time. Who doesn't want to be the outsider when you can choose to be?


Somewhere during the course of tea, this dude showed up. By this dude, of course, I mean the man what runs the place. He explained that this temple was used more as a guest house and a living space than a temple and that it fell into great disrepair until 60 odd years ago. The garden wasn't tended, nor was the building.


Since then it has been well maintained and was used in a JR add campaign 10 years ago. Something he had a little difficulty explaining was this:



He had difficulty explaining the ceiling? You might be saying yourself. Well, yes. Because, you see, this ceiling used to be a floor. And not just any floor, it was the floor of Fushimi Castle where Torii Mototada held off Ishida Mitsunari giving Tokugawa Ieyasu time to rally forces for the battle of Sekigahara. It was a suicide mission, so, in the end, the samurai committed suicide. In that castle their dead bodies bled and rotted. Afterward the floorboards were taken out and used to construct buildings around Japan. Why? I am still curious as the head priest could only summon up, "If you can understand that Japanese heart...." I thought that a fairly weak explanation of a very interesting occurrence. That wouldn't be the first time I had thought that of similar explanations however. There must have been an actual decision to use blood stained floor boards to build the ceilings of a temple. In any case, that is a leg print that you are seeing. There are more striking images of faces, but I felt gruesome leaning over people drinking tea to take them. I should note that most other guests seemed surprised by this revelation, but it was written in the literature passed out at the gate. Maybe being alone, I was the only one who had stopped to read it.


Another room in the house contained a Japanese "iori." I would just like to state for the record, that I would like one for Christmas.



Oh! There is Mt. Fuji.



An additional Zen garden stretches down to the south of the main garden.






Writing Practice

Teachers, here is a great worksheet maker for teaching kids to write in English.


I have become quite the promoter of Ohara as of late. There is no real cause other than it is quite accessible by bus from near my house. I will move on to another location soon. However, after my initial visit, and my hike I was talked into going back when company came to town. This was fine with me as I wanted to cover some temples which I hadn't visited initially.


This time my goal was Jakkoin, a small temple to the west of Ohara that features prominently in the last part of The Tale of the Heike.

As I mentioned about my hike, if you do go to Ohara, go early in the morning. The farms are lovelier and the people seem more receptive. Everyone is up working in the morning.


The picture above is looking back down the valley to Kyoto and the mountains rising to the left are the ones I hiked last week.


Many houses in the mountains north of Kyoto tend to have this type of roof as they get heavy snows in the winter. Ohara still has lots of terraced agriculture. As lovely as I may claim it to be, it tends to stink like a farm. This is just a big square of fetid sludge.


Jakkoin itself is actually a Buddhist nunnery built in the 594 by Prince Shotoku. It is a small complex but, as you can see, incredibly beautiful. This is the main entrance way.



The main hall was burnt down by an arsonist in 1999. Some people are ridiculous. I had to wait to get this picture as an old man was posing in front of the gate and making his wife get shots of him in various configurations. He never offered to take her photo. Some people are ridiculous.




Before the gate, just off the stone stairwell is a garden that has been in the same location for a thousand years. Marinate on that for a second. I don't know how many other people that day knew of its significance. This is where, according to The Tale of the Heike, emperor Go-Shirakawa sat and waited for Kenreimon'in and composed the following poem:

The cherry tree leans
Over the quiet depths
Of the pool
While fallen petals float
On the silent ripples

This is supposed to echo the Heike defeat at Dan no Ura and the bodies lost at sea, which included Kenreimon's son who was drowned in the arms of his grandmother. There is a little wooden structure and a bench next to the garden. I sat there and no one else came, although I could here some mounting the steps. Unfortunately a monk was running a leaf blower somewhere behind the bamboo. You would think a temple could use brooms or rakes. It dampened the scene.


Nevertheless, this is that pool and the cherry tree's descendant remains.





That is the reconstructed main hall. It is alright. The grounds are strikingly self contained. I mean small. I was yelled at in bad English by a priest for stepping on a board in my shoes when no sign was written anywhere. I responded, "You can say it in Japanese." As I really wasn't sure what he was getting at at first. That and the leaf blower darkened my mood slightly.


This bell was a gift from Toyotomi Hideyoshi.


This is the pine tree that was mentioned in The Tale of the Heike. It was badly damaged in the fire and later died. What a terrible waste. It is almost a supernatural belief to think that because the tree was alive and was also alive when famous events a thousand years ago took place that it being there provides you with any kind of connection to the age. Still.


The bell that rings at the end of The Tale of the Heike was the bell of the Jakkoin.

The burned remnants of the Buddha from inside the old hall were on special display for 300 yen in a separate building. The remains were far more striking than any new statue. Photography was prohibited but the same old man manged to snap a shot while his wife was telling him, "The sign outside says 'no photography.'" Those rule breaking foreigners...Wait a second. I didn't take a picture, but it was a very touching display. Probably the most striking Buddha image I have seen. And living in Kyoto, I have seen my share.


Ohara is known for its flowers. Look, some tulips.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.